Telecommuting is "alive and well and growing" even though the balance of power has shifted more toward employers in recent years, according to Gil Gordon, a consultant for employers on telecommuting and mobile work.
Gordon, based in Monmouth Junction, New Jersey, sees two trends happening. One, traditional telecommuting, where employees work some days at home and some in the office, has given way, he says, to "a broader notion of mobile work or remote officing." This includes employees working, basically, wherever—at a client’s office, at a coffee shop or at a hotel.
Second, Gordon says, some companies—especially the most proactive—no longer see telecommuting as a favor or perk given to employees when they request it. Instead, some employers are the ones requesting it of employees. "Companies aren’t just looking at this as something that’s going to benefit the employee," Gordon says, "they look at it as something that’s going to benefit the employer as well. Employers who look at this strictly on an accommodation basis are unnecessarily limiting themselves as far as what they can get out of telecommuting."
Meanwhile, Intel was named the "best workplace for commuters," according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation. The study took into account the prevalence such benefits as telecommuting, but also whether companies made life easier for people who did go to the office—such as offering flexible schedules to avoid rush hour.
Last year, 40 percent of Intel’s employees telecommuted. Also, nearly 66 percent of Intel employees say their corporation "supports a flexible work environment"—up from 37 percent in 1999. Other companies honored include EMC, which operates a shuttle service for employees traveling between offices, and Texas Instruments, which provides free rapid-transit passes to all employees that work in the North Texas area.
According to the Transportation Department and the EPA, the financial benefits of commuting benefits for an employer include a reduced demand for parking spaces and thus savings on construction costs; lower employee turnover; tax breaks; higher productivity; lower stress and fewer employee injuries.
More information on telecommuting and related issues is available on the Workforce Management site, including a sample flextime proposal, evaluation form, and telecommuting agreement. Also, the U.S. government has an "emergency ride home toolkit" as well as case studies and success stories of telecommuting benefits.